Mental Health, Social Media, and 27/7 News
Having a smart phone has brought some positive changes to my personal life. I can easily access directions when I’m lost – instead of wandering aimlessly around back country roads. I can promote the jewelry items I sell on Etsy on Instagram and Twitter. I can see pictures of friends’ children on Facebook. Finally, I can ask Google a question and get an immediate response.
The benefits have also brought some negativity. In my experience, social media full of angry posts about the past political election kicks up anxiety like a dust storm. Discouraging news from missionary friends overseas breaks my heart because it’s personal. Seeing others’ accomplishments reminds me of my own limitations (i.e., my current health situation and not being physically capable of doing everything I want to do.)
Research studies show that social media can lead to negative feels like isolation, depression, and feeling inadequate. 1 The 27/7 news cycle means stories are presented and endlessly discussed. Being informed is important, but there’s a difference between getting a sip of water from a water fountain and trying to drink from a fire hose.
Here are the a few important things I’ve learned about maintaining my mental health in a world of 27/7 tech.
I went out to dinner over the weekend with a friend I haven’t seen in a few weeks. I looked forward to chatting and catching up. I follow this friend on social media, and it looks like she’s always have fun! Then, at lunch, my friend sat with her iPhone in front of her face. She took pictures of our food, she checked-in and got a flood of comments about the restaurant (ding, ding, ding), and she took a video of me eating without telling me. What really bothers me is that I learned my friend was going through some really awful stuff. I had no clue because she presents such a carefree persona. All the postings can’t replace face-to- face contact. When you’re with friends, be with them. Enjoy their company. Take 1 photo at the end of the evening to remember it.
Set a time limit
I found it empowering to set a time limit on social media or turn it off for a period of time.
- Change the notifications on your phone so it doesn’t ding, ding, ding and distract you.
- Set a personal rule like “No social media during work/school hours.”
- Use a smart phone app like AppDetox and set time limits on certain social media (i.e., only
- access Instagram for 6 minutes every hour).
- Log out of social media each time instead of saving passwords. Then you have to physically type
- in the password and don’t end up mindlessly scrolling through a feed.
- Use a browser extension like Leech Blocker on Firefox to limit access to specific sites during
- work hours.
Pick-up a “real” newspaper or book
The physical act of picking up a newspaper, reading a few articles, and putting it down is something I didn’t know I missed until I visited my parents over Christmas. You can set it aside, or put it in the recycling when you’re finished while the digital news cycle rushes onward.
Technology is an amazing tool that has made our lives easier. Setting limits will keep it from taking control of our lives.
1 http://psychcentral.com/lib/the-anxiety- of-facebook/